JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – The closure of the highway for street racing. Videos posted online over the weekend show cars blocking traffic and making donuts on I-295 in west Jacksonville.
This video is now helping the police in their investigation and officers are telling News4JAX that they will soon arrest some of the drivers.
As of Thursday afternoon, a video showing the “freeway takeover” had more than 117,000 views on Facebook.
The video shows cars spinning while passengers hang out of windows and record video. Others are conducting a blockade on the highway. There is a traffic jam line where some motorists honk their horns angrily.
Related: 36 arrests and more than 600 subpoenas result in a “dramatic reduction” in street racing, Jacksonville police say | ‘Someone’s going to get hurt’: Groups of motorcycles spotted performing dangerous stunts in Jacksonville
It happened around 2 a.m. Saturday on I-295 near the Commonwealth Avenue exit.
“When I saw the video, I realized they had actually closed an entire freeway,” said Jaime Eason, chief of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department of Patrol and Enforcement. “And I find it frustrating because they don’t know what’s happening on the freeway. You don’t know if anyone is trying to go to the hospital. You don’t know if someone is trying to come home after a 15-hour shift.”
Eason led the agency’s allegation against street racing, an ongoing problem city-wide. JSO officials have since identified many from the weekend takeover.
“[Participants] “I like to post, and when they’re not posting, people are posting for them,” she said. “And I have to be honest: a lot of our investigative leads come from the public and not from police officers. There are many people who are just frustrated by this. Even the auto companies that legitimately do this don’t want that name associated with them. And they texted me or emailed me every day.”
Eason said arrests are imminent and called the antics dangerous and brazen. She found that many motorists cover up their license plates, but police have other ways of tracking them down.
New laws in Florida increase penalties.
“Blocking [a highway] is actually a crime now,” she said. “It used to be an offence. And indeed, they face up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.”
News4JAX reached out to the man who posted this recent video. He said he just shared it and wasn’t part of the race.
The News4JAX I-TEAM has reported an increase in street races and raids with dozens of arrests and car confiscations and hundreds of subpoenas. However, the races continue.
“There are a lot of business owners in town, they’ve seen our first stories and want to give these people the opportunity to do it legitimately,” Eason added. “There are people who have private property that allow them to drive and race on private property without getting injured or anything like that in public.”
In this case, Eason said she didn’t learn about it from 911 calls, but from this video on social media. She is asking anyone who sees this type of activity to report it to the police.
News4JAX also reached out to the Florida Highway Patrol. Master Sgt. Dylan Bryan said that the State Police are also investigating and working with the JSO. Both agencies are part of a road racing task force. Bryan said they are using additional sources to address this activity.
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